If you redeem your rewards strategically, fifth-night-free awards can help you stretch your points. However, the perk has guidelines and limitations, such as requiring you to book a stay entirely with points.
For frequent travelers who stockpile hotel loyalty program points, redeeming your rewards for a long, expensive trip can be cathartic, or you might have trouble parting with the points you so carefully saved. One way to get a little extra satisfaction out of these redemptions is by taking advantage of a fifth-night-free perk — a benefit that awards a complimentary night on a stay of four nights or longer. Not only will you enjoy a lengthy vacation on points alone (except for applicable taxes and fees), but you can also find comfort in the fact that you saved thousands of points on your fifth night.
Two of the biggest hotel loyalty programs — Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy — offer this benefit, making it easy to score a great deal on vacations around the globe. Here’s how to take advantage of this perk and redeem a free night for your next trip.
What is a fifth-night-free award?
A fifth-night-free award is a promotion offered by several hotel loyalty programs that rants members a reduced rate on longer stays. When a customer books a stay of five consecutive nights or longer with points, they can receive the fifth night free. Though only applicable to longer trips, these awards can be a great way to stretch your rewards points further.
The good news is that this benefit applies to all hotel stays with increments of five, not just five-night stays. So if you make a 20-night hotel reservation, four of those 20 nights will be awarded free. Remember, though, that the other nights (the four of the five consecutive nights, essentially) must be redeemed through points. This benefit does not apply to hotel stays paid with cash or credit card.
Which hotel programs offer fifth-night-free awards?
Among the major hotel loyalty programs, two of the largest hotel networks in the world offer fifth-night-free awards: Marriott and Hilton. The guidelines and limitations for each program’s fifth night are listed below:
|Who is eligible for a 5th night free?
|Rules and restrictions
|All program members
|Silver Elite status members and higher
Though the basic idea of fifth-night-free awards are similar across the two hotels, let’s dive deeper into each one. Marriott Bonvoy’s fifth-night-free perk — called Stay for 5, Pay for 4 — is available to all members of the hotel loyalty program, not just elite status holders. Though there are no blackout dates, there are a few limitations such as it only applies to standard room stays, depending on availability at your preferred property. Not to mention, Marriott is notorious for having limited standard room availability at popular locations during peak times.
And like previously mentioned, Stay for 5, Pay for 4 only applies to reservations of five consecutive nights, in the same room. If you book five nights on different reservations, for the same or different rooms in the hotel, the benefit will not apply. However, as long as you can find a room, the fifth award night can save you some money.
In 2022, Marriott phased out hotel categories, so it’s difficult to know exactly how many points you’d save using the benefit. Nevertheless, standard rooms tend to cost in the tens of thousands, so you can expect to save around that number.
Remember, while you have to pay for the first four nights with points to earn a fifth night free, you can cover any additional nights with cash. So if you have a seven-night stay planned, you can cover four of them with points, get the fifth night for free and pay for the last two in cash. That means you won’t have to stockpile quite as many rewards before maximizing this benefit.
A bit more restrictive than Marriott Bonvoy’s award, the Hilton Honors’ fifth-night-free benefit is exclusive to elite status members — anyone with Silver, Gold or Diamond status. Luckily, earning Hilton Honors Silver status is easy. You can become a Silver status member after accumulating four hotel stays, 10 hotel nights or 25,000 Hilton Honors base points in a calendar year. Having one of Hilton’s co-branded credit cards, such as the no-annual fee Hilton Honors American Express Card, also provides you with an automatic Silver status.
Unfortunately, you can’t stack other Hilton Honors promotions with its fifth-night-free award. Like with Marriott Bonvoy, you must pay for at least four nights with points to earn the benefit, rather than cover the reservation with money and rewards or entirely with cash.
Other than having a Silver status, you must book a stay of five consecutive nights, in the same standard room and the same property, to qualify for a fifth free night. You may take advantage of the benefit an unlimited number of times on different reservations throughout the year, but for each booking you can only get up to four nights free on a 20-night stay.
How to redeem your free fifth night
For both the Marriott and Hilton fifth-night-free awards, the discount is automatically applied to qualifying reservations. That means booking a five-night or longer stay using only points as you normally would on the hotel’s website.
Of the nights in your reservation, Hilton Honors doesn’t specify which night it’ll give you for free. However, Marriott details in its program terms and conditions that you’ll receive the discount on the night worth the lowest cost in points. For example, if your standard room is worth different point values during your stay, because of dynamic pricing, the hotel will cover the night worth 30,000 points while the other nights are worth 35,000 points.
Tips for maximizing fifth-night-free awards
Use these tips to get the most out of this benefit:
- Save up points for a more expensive stay, as you’ll get the best fifth-night-free discount.
- Since the fifth-night-free benefit is not capped, you should use it as many times as you want throughout the year.
- Make sure there is a standard room available at your preferred property before trying to book a stay with a fifth night free. The benefit doesn’t apply to stays in upgraded rooms.
- If you don’t have enough points to cover four nights and earn a fifth night free, try earning extra points through Hilton Honors Dining and Marriott Bonvoy Eat Around Town. These dining portals give you bonus points when you use your linked credit or debit cards at partner restaurants, and they are excellent ways to top off your points balance.
While Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy are the only two major hotel loyalty programs to offer a fifth night free, some credit cards come with a comparable perk. For example, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with fourth-night benefits. IHG Rewards Club Premier cardholders receive a fourth night free every time they use IHG Rewards points to book a stay of four or more nights.
Unfortunately, the IHG fourth-night-free benefit is exclusive to IHG co-branded cardholders and is not offered to elite status or base members who do not have a credit card with the hotel. Like Marriott’s and Hilton’s benefits, the IHG reward night for a four-or-more-night stay can be used multiple times per year.
Though it may seem like a benefit reserved for VIP members, the fifth-night-free award is actually much more accessible than you have thought. The good thing is that two major hotel rewards programs, Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, provide it for their members, and it’s fairly easy to qualify for. You only need to reserve a standard hotel room for five consecutive nights using rewards and the fifth night will be awarded for free.
If you are a loyalist of Marriott or Hilton hotels, the fifth-night-free award can be a great way to stretch your points. You could save hundreds of dollars on a room, if you redeem your rewards strategically.